Note: This one is more interesting than the usual.
Details emerge about deadly cross-border shooting
February 03, 2012 8:26 PM
NEAR SULLIVAN CITY — The five men who illegally crossed the Rio
Grande to reportedly avoid apprehension Thursday by the Mexican
military were unarmed when soldiers shot at them from Mexico, a U.S.
law enforcement source close to the investigation said.
One man died on U.S. federal land, another suffered a non-life
threatening gunshot wound to the ankle and three others were taken
into custody by U.S. federal authorities, San Antonio FBI
Spokesperson Eric Vasys said Friday.
U.S. authorities have yet to disclose the events that drove the men
to cross the Rio Grande about 6 p.m. Thursday near the Mexican town
of Diaz Ordaz, which is southwest of the U.S town of Sullivan City.
"We're looking into the circumstances that led to these individuals
crossing over," Vasys said. "(The investigation) is still ongoing and
we're trying to sort it out."
A Border Patrol agent not authorized to speak publicly about the
investigation told a Monitor reporter that a U.S. Customs and Border
Protection chopper radioed in a shots-fired call about two hours
prior to the shooting.
Someone on U.S. soil apparently shot at the helicopter that was
allegedly carrying advisors to the White House and the Department of
Homeland Security as they toured the border near La Joya, he said.
Vasys said he had not heard of any such reports.
A second law enforcement official, also not authorized to speak
publicly, said that likely did not happen.
"It was not a U.S. law enforcement helicopter that got fired on, but
rather a Mexican government helicopter," the second U.S. law
enforcement official said.
A Mexican military chopper began chasing after the men during an
operation along the river, and the men shot at it at one point or
another while in Mexico, he said.
It's unclear if they swam across the river or simply found a location
where they could cross the border by foot, but the individuals
apparently ditched their weapons before crossing into the U.S.
because authorities did not find any on them, he added.
"When they got to the U.S. side, the illegals that had crossed over
started taunting the Mexican military — doing all kinds of obscene
gestures and cuss words — and then the military fired upon them," he
said. "We don't believe the illegals that came across were armed."
A source outside law enforcement said that for a long time, certain
members of the Mexican military had been working alongside members of
the Gulf Cartel.
In order to keep up appearances, drug smugglers would leave behind
vehicles loaded drugs for the soldiers to seize so the members of the
military could report back to their superiors, the source said. The
communications to coordinate the drops between drug smugglers and
soldiers were carried out with Nextel radio communication telephones
that are difficult to trace.
However, during the organization's internal struggle that began
last September, some of these troops were caught in the crossfire.
"They are mad and now all bets are off," the source said. "Remember,
last week (Jan. 26), the military killed some people in the morning,
and then the ambush happened. The 'Verdes' are out for blood."
In an apparent day of firefights last week, the Mexican military was
ambushed in the streets of Reynosa by members of the Gulf Cartel who
set up a bait car to draw out the soldiers. The Mexican military
didn't issue any news releases in connection with the firefights that
Prior to that, unknown assailants had lobbed two grenades at the
headquarters of the Matamoros military police, killing one man and
critically injuring another.
Vasys did not have information about whether the men taken into
custody Thursday night were armed or not, he said, adding that U.S.
authorities did not discharge their weapons at any time during the
Authorities, who remain tight-lipped about the shooting, did not
release the men's identities.
Mexican Consulate officials in McAllen also were waiting to learn the
identity of the deceased man, Consul Jose Manuel Gutierrez Minera
said about 4:30 p.m. Friday. He expected the information to come from
federal authorities late Friday.
"Out of respect for the family, we usually wait to contact them first
before releasing information," he said.
U.S. authorities do not know if anyone died in Mexico during the
incident, Vasys said.
The FBI is heading the investigation because the incident happened on
land owned by the federal government.
"It's not a common theme for FBI to be involved in altercations
(along the border) because so much of what we do is long-term
investigation," he said. "Historically, the FBI is a follow-up
investigative entity unless we're working an active investigation of
drug trafficking by the cartels or gang activity along the border."
The agency, however, does get involved any time a federal agent is
wounded or killed, he said. So if a Border Patrol agent is hurt along
the border, the FBI will take over those investigations, too.
Vasys would not comment on whether the shooting could be classified
as spillover violence.
"I'm not going to speak to that," he said. "FBI deals with
investigation and enforcement. So what we're doing is the follow up
to the death that occurred on U.S. property. I'm not going to speak
to what this may or may not be characterized by other government
"The situation in Mexico has been a concern for our agency," said
Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw.
"Our concern is that criminal organizations in Mexico combating each
other or the Mexican military could attempt to flee to our side of
the border. To address those concerns, we have established
contingency plans and work alongside federal and local agencies."
The incident in Havana is just one of the many types of incidents law
enforcement in the area is prepared for.
"The average citizen should know that there are state, local and
federal law enforcement professionals working in a proactive fashion
to address any contingency. Texas has been very proactive in this; we
have increased our patrol presence and our tactical capabilities to
deter any situation."
While McCraw was not able to discuss details of the situation, he
said his agency dissects and studies all border incidents that it